Ever since Peyton Manning was released earlier this month by the Indianapolis Colts — where he played for 14 years, won four MVP awards, and led the team to a Super Bowl title — football fans have been in a constant tizzy over where the Hall-of-Fame-bound quarterback would play next. Several NFL teams scrambled to sign the living legend, who was sidelined last season with a neck injury. Well, Manning's new home is a mystery no longer. According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Manning is in final negotiations with the Denver Broncos on a reported five-year, $95 million contract. Here, five things you should know about the new Manning-Denver marriage:
1. It's easy to see why Manning picked Denver
Denver is the "most logical landing spot" for Manning, says Jeff Zrebiec at The Baltimore Sun. The Broncos boast a crop of young, solid wide receivers, a strong defense, and "one of the better quarterbacks in NFL history as a top executive" in John Elway. Playing in Denver will be less taxing on Manning's body, too, says Peter Schmuck at the Sun. "The ball travels 10 percent farther in the Mile High City, which will take some pressure off his sore neck." The one wildcard: Snow. Manning enjoyed the protection of playing indoors in Indianapolis; it will be interesting to see how he reacts to the winter weather.
2. And now the Broncos are a Super Bowl contender
Assuming Manning is healthy when the season starts, expect the Broncos to be among the AFC's best teams, right alongside the Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, and Pittsburgh Steelers, says Chad Finn at The Boston Globe. Certainly, Denver should have no problem winning the AFC West. The Broncos were already a strong team that won a playoff game last year, but with Manning, who overwhelmingly outperforms current Denver QB Tim Tebow in every metric, they "have to be considered a Super Bowl contender," says Joel Thorman at SB Nation.
3. But Peyton's health is still in doubt
Manning is nearly 36, and had four surgeries on the right side of his neck in the past 18 months. Experts who have seen him throw say he's in top form, but once the season starts, "he will be hit," says Christopher Harris at ESPN. Given the toll these surgeries have taken, we don't know "whether he's one harsh blow away from retirement," or if his arm will "instantly regress" the first time he takes a hard sack. "This risk just has to be figured ion any assessment" of his Denver future.
4. The 49ers got hosed
San Francisco really wanted Manning. And after the 49ers signed star receivers Mario Manningham and Randy Moss, many fans speculated that San Francisco would be the best place for Manning to play — especially if he wanted to make a serious go at matching his kid brother, New York Giants QB Eli Manning, in Super Bowl victories, says Finn. Now, says Thorman, the Niners are scrambling to "figure out what to do at quarterback." They may have to re-sign Alex Smith, who they all but cast aside to court Manning.
5. And what about Tim Tebow?
The endlessly fascinating Tebow, who "emerged as a controversial and exciting player last season," will likely be traded by the Broncos, says Steve Silva at The Boston Globe. After replacing Kyle Orton as the Broncos' starting QB last season, Tebow led the team to the AFC West title. But his "unconventional play" — Tebow is a gifted runner who often struggles to throw the ball accurately — "has drawn criticism from some who don't believe he can lead a traditional offense." One possible destination is the Miami Dolphins, says Tom Silverstein at the Journal Sentinel. The Dolphins need a star to fill seats, and the former University of Florida Heisman Trophy winner certainly has "fan appeal."